A rough journey to the pinnacle

Iniesta strike in extra-time helps Spain claim their maiden World Cup, beating Holland 1-0

A rough journey to the pinnacle

Spain’s captain Iker Casillas makes a save off a drive from the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben (right) in the World Cup final on Sunday. Reuters

Spain had to take the rough road to glory, weathering a really physicall challenge from the Netherlands to win their maiden World Cup here on Sunday night.

After ninety minutes of regulation play failed to fetch a goal, Andres Iniesta powered the Spaniards ahead in the extra-time for the only strike of the match.

That completed an amazing journey for Spain, who had failed to win the ultimate prize in football despite possessing tons of talent.

Earlier, hordes of orange-clad Dutch fans and red-bedecked Spaniards battled it out  to see who could sing the loudest, drink the most and dress the silliest ahead of the final.
South Africans gleefully joined in the raucous but good-natured buildup to the game at Soccer City where one of the teams will lift soccer's greatest prize for the first time.
Some neutrals flying in for the game even wore scarves with both ‘Netherlands’ and ‘Espana’ on them to hedge their bets.

“This way, I can party whoever wins!” joked Jigae Parmai, just in from India, with a half-orange, half-red scarf.

Outside the ground on a sunny and cloudless day in Johannesburg, Dutch and Spanish fans kicked a ball round near the entrance and poked fun at each other.
“Tomorrow there will be a celebration so loud in Amsterdam you will hear it in Madrid!” crowed businessman Arno van der Heijden, 41, waiting with friends eight hours before kickoff.

“Our 70s team was a more beautiful one, but these boys know how to win as well as just playing nice.”

Nearby, Sergio Munoz Gomez, a phone firm worker from Madrid, was more phlegmatic, saying he would not be devastated if Spain lost given it was their first but Netherlands' third final. The Dutch lost in 1974 and 1978.  “Spain have made us proud just by being here. Even if Holland win, I would still be happy. They have waited a long time. These are two very likeable teams,” said Gomez, 31. However, he forecast a 3-0 victory for his team.

At Nelson Mandela square in the upmarket Sandton district, Dutch fans in orange double-breasted suits formed an impromptu band to strike up traditional songs with brass instruments.

Spanish supporters soon gathered next to them on a staircase, belting out ‘Viva Espana!’ at the top of their lungs.

Despite their historical ties with former colonisers Netherlands, many locals have taken to the Spanish team due to the intricate passing so loved by purist African soccer fans.
“They are just too cool, those Spain guys. They knock the ball around so well their opponents can't get anywhere near,” said student Mzwakhe Tyali, 18. “I always play Spain on my Play Station.”

Proud Dutch fan Arjen Verlaan, 20, said his partial namesake and wing wizard Arjen Robben would soon put paid to Spanish dreams and give Netherlands a third-time-lucky win.

“We'll win two-nil. Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. You have to agree Sneijder is the best player in the tournament,” he said, sipping a beer and adjusting a curly orange wig.
Hawkers were having a last fiesta of sales, with local ‘vuvuzela’ trumpets and ‘makarapa’ hats flying off their stalls, along with anything else containing a dab of red or orange.
Some fans had signs begging for tickets -- at any price.

At Soccer City, a group of South African schoolgirls suddenly appeared from a minibus before performing traditional dances to the delight of waiting fans.

“It's such a unique feeling, being the first time in Africa,” said Dutch fan Arthur van der Loop, 38.

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